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Unit information: Research Methods in Physical Geography in 2016/17

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Unit name Research Methods in Physical Geography
Unit code GEOG25020
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Tranter
Open unit status Not open

GEOG15010 Physical Geography; GEOG15020 Human Geography; GEOG15030 Geographical Practices; GEOG15040 Geographical Methods.


GEOG25070 Study and Field Skills B

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


The purpose of the course is to provide students with the tools to analyse, design and carry out scientific research in the realm of physical geography. Students will be introduced to the principles and practice of research in physical geography using a programme of lectures, field classes, laboratory and computer-based practical classes and seminars. The course is assessed through a variety of non-exam based methods. Students will be introduced to some of the expected limitations of research methods and will be given the opportunity to undertake rigorous evaluation/review of their own proposals, sampling design and scientific practice. Also covered are COSHH and Health and Safety issues in field and laboratory environments.

The principal aim of this unit is to provide the students with the generic and specific skills to design and carry out their dissertation successfully.

Within this remit, the unit aims are:

  • to develop the students higher-level skills in observation, measurement and reporting;
  • to provide a platform for independent research;
  • to promote best practice in the design and execution of a research project;
  • to prompt independent reflection on scientific practice, especially that adopted in Physical Geography

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  • Design an effective piece of research or enquiry
  • Work safely in the field or a scientific laboratory with an awareness of standard procedures
  • Employ a variety of technical, field and laboratory based methods for collecting and analysing spatial and environmental information
  • Interpret common physical geography datasets and critically assess their limitations.

The following transferable skills are developed in this Unit:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Team working and collaboration
  • Numeracy and computation
  • Planning and implementing research projects
  • Information technology

Teaching details


Assessment Details

Technique Based Practical Report 1 (5%)

Technique Based Practical Report 2 (10%)

Technique Based Practical Report 3 (5%)

Avon Project Presentations (20%)

Avon Project Peer Review (12%)

Avon Project Report (48%)

Reading and References

  1. Bradbury, I. et al. (2002) Scientific Principles for Physical Geographers. Pearson Education, Harlow, England.
  2. Cheeseman, R.V. and Wilson, A. L. (1978) Manual of Analytical Quality for the Water Industry. Water Research Centre Technical report, TB66
  3. Clifford, N., and Valentine, G. (2004) Key Methods in Geography. Sage Publication.
  4. Montieth, J.L., and Unsworth, M.H. (1990), Principles of Environmental Physics, 2nd ed., Edward Arnold,. New York
  5. Parsons, T., and Knight. P.G. (2001) How To Do Your Dissertation in Geography and Related Disciplines. Nelson Thornes.
  6. Ritchie, W, Wood, M, Wright, R. & Tait, D (1988) Surveying and Mapping for Field Scientists. Longman.